Report of the Cabinet Member for Health and Care
Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) provided protection for the most vulnerable people living in residential homes, nursing homes or hospital environments. DoLS are the statutory requirement to ensure that care will always be provided in a way that is consistent with the human rights of people lacking capacity, who are not otherwise protected or safeguarded through Mental Health legislation.
The Supreme Court judgement in 2014 resulted in a seventeen-fold increase in DoLS requests to all LAs in England. From necessity Staffordshire had prioritised assessment of high-level cases, however on 8 March 2019 the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman published its investigation report which found that Staffordshire had unlawfully decided not to carry out assessments of low and medium priority DoLS applications and significantly delayed assessing the remaining applications. The Cabinet meeting of 15 May 2019 agreed recommendations to tackle this issue and the Committee now received details of the actions taken.
Members noted that Liberty Protection Safeguards (LPSs) were being introduced through the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Act 2019 and would replace the DoLS system. The associated codes of practice had not yet been published and the department for Health and Social Care had extended the timescales, with no date currently given for implementation. However, the Committee were reassured by the activity undertaken to prepare for its eventual introduction.
From January 2020 to October 2021 Staffordshire had granted 1093 DoLS and had recorded 37 as “not granted”. The Committee asked whether this was in-line with other LAs and/or the national average. Comparisons were difficult as LAs all worked slightly differently. Staffordshire assessments regularly underwent an audit process, with their triage process also regularly audited and reviewed. Staffordshire was also part of a peer review process at West Midlands Region.
There was an aim to reduce the waiting list to 1000 by March 2022 and Members queried whether this was on target. This was an internal target, with the current trajectory giving reasonable confidence that it would be met, although there were several external issues that could yet impact on it. An historic underspend within Social Care had been invested in officer resource to enable the improvement to be made, and to ensure this progress remained continued investment would be needed.
Depravation of Liberty within the Community referred to accommodation settings such as supported living, shared lives placements, or a persons own home. In these circumstances an application had to be made to the Court of Protection. Staffordshire currently had 47 ongoing cases made up of 39 renewal applications and 8 new applications. Members noted there were significant challenges within the Court system, with approximately a six month waiting time for cases to be heard. Members queried whether this was in-line with other LAs, with a suggestion that it may be helpful for this data to be shared at West Midlands region to enable regional data to be collated and help identify and address any unique concerns.
a) the updated position regarding the waiting list for DoLS in Staffordshire be noted and Officers be congratulated on the improvements achieved;
b) the Council’s continued triage of cases to ensure the highest risk cases are prioritised be welcomed;
c) the delay in releasing statutory guidance regarding Liberty Protection Safeguards and the significant future transformation work needed be noted.